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Former Sergeant-at-Arms Drew Willison in Line for Reid Chief of Staff

Willison joined Reid in 1997 and spent 10 years on his staff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Willison joined Reid in 1997 and spent 10 years on his staff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Drew Willison is in line to replace David Krone as chief of staff for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, but Krone told staffers in a memo Wednesday that he’s staying put for now.  

The expected staff shift in the Nevada Democrat’s office, first reported by Politico,  was confirmed to CQ Roll Call by a source familiar with the plan to place Willison — who spent more than a decade working for Reid on energy and environment projects — at the helm.  

Krone also confirmed in the memo that he has discussed with Reid the possibility of managing Reid’s 2016 re-election campaign and Willison taking over.  

“Notwithstanding this article and all of the rumors, I will continue in my role and am not departing,” stated Krone, who has worked for Reid for six years.  

“Of course, with Senator Reid up for re-election, he and I have had many discussions about his campaign and who may manage it. He and I have discussed me taking over this role and possibly Drew Willison replacing me as chief-of-staff; however, we have not finalized anything in this area,” he continued, promising staff would be informed of any changes.  

Willison is a longtime creature of Capitol Hill, with a policy-heavy résumé that is unique among the sergeants-at-arms of the post-9/11 era. When he was appointed to the post in spring 2014, a Reid spokesman said the job required an “element of diplomacy” to handle the unique needs of the 100 senators, and that Willison was extremely qualified.  

Willison joined Reid’s staff in 1997 to assist the Nevada Democrat’s work on the Environment and Public Works Committee and eventually earned a spot as staff director for the Appropriations Energy-Water Subcommittee. When Reid became majority leader in 2007, he appointed Terrance W. Gainer to be the chamber’s chief law enforcement officer and invited Willison to join Gainer as deputy.  

During their tenure, Gainer gravitated towards security matters, while Willison honed in on the day-to-day operations for the team of more than 800 full-time employees and 200 contractors that operates on a budget of about $200 million. The administrative role was a natural fit for Willison, who once dreamed of becoming a city manager and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Ohio State University.  

Willison briefly left the Hill during the 112th Congress to go to work for Battelle, a nonprofit that operates national laboratories for the Department of Energy, but he told CQ Roll Call in an April 2014 interview that he “missed the Hill.” When Reid asked Willison to come back after the deputy that took his place retired, he agreed. Gainer hand-picked Willison to replace him when he retired. Prior to his 15 years in the Senate, Willison served stints at NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency. In the spring interview, Willison claimed a genuine love for the Hill. “If this is the work you enjoy, this is where you want to be,” Willison said.  

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. Related:  

Drew Willison, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms With a City Manager’s Touch

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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